LINDSBORG – James Brooks (JR/Cherokee, Kan.) was too exhausted to eat, even though he hadn’t had anything for several hours and had played extended minutes in Kansas Wesleyan’s just-completed basketball game Monday night.
“I’m sick, my body hurts,” he said, standing on the court inside Bethany’s Hahn Gymnasium afterwards. “They offered me food but I can’t eat anything right now. I feel awful, my body’s worn out.”
Brooks’ fatigue was certainly understandable. He played 43 grueling minutes and was the central figure in the Coyotes’ Kansas Conference game against the arch-rival Swedes.
Brooks scored a game- and career-high 38 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Wesleyan erased a 14-point second half deficit, forced the first overtime period on his 30-foot 3-pointer with two seconds left and ultimately pulled away in the second overtime for a wild 95-87 victory.
The Coyotes’ third consecutive victory raises their record to 7-5 in the conference, 9-7 overall. Bethany drops to 5-7 and 8-9 with its second straight loss.
Monday’s contest no doubt will rank among the craziest and most competitive in the century-plus old rivalry.
KWU trailed 38-26 at halftime and was down 48-35 with 12½ minutes left, but rallied and got within 50-47 with 10:45 left following a 12-2 run – the first six on back-to-back 3-pointers by Nathaniel Leach (JR/Houston, Texas). Bethany, though, regained control and had a seemingly secure 69-57 lead with 3½ minutes left.
That’s when Brooks took over. He scored eight points during a 14-4 run that got Wesleyan within 73-71 with 30.5 seconds left.
Following a time out the Coyotes forced a turnover, but Brooks missed a shot and Bethany’s Tyler Larkin was fouled with 12.8 seconds left.
Larkin, who scored 25 points and was 8 of 10 at the foul line, made the first free throw, but missed the second after a Bethany time out.
Wesleyan grabbed the rebound and Brooks’ nailed a 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the circle with 2 seconds left, tying it at 74.
“It’s a shot everyone dreams about,” said Brooks, who was 5 of 12 from 3-point range. “I don’t even know what else to say. It was the shot of a lifetime, best shot of my life. Felt good to watch it go in for sure.”
Bethany scored the first four points of the first overtime, but KWU battled back again with four straight points – two Jordan McNelly (JR/Salina, Kan,) free throws with 14.3 seconds left tying it at 78. Bethany’s Jovan Elezovic missed a hurried 3-pointer at the buzzer, forcing the second overtime.
The Coyotes quickly took control from there, scoring the first seven points before five straight points by Reed Stephens got Bethany within 91-87 with 27.8 seconds left.
KWU closed it out, though, on two Brooks’ free throws with 22.5 seconds left and two Darius Hammond (SO/Dallas, Texas) foul shots with 12.5 seconds left.
“We just had to dig deep and be tougher than them,” said Brooks, who was 11 of 20 from the field and scored 29 points in the second half and two overtime periods. “Get stops, get rebounds. Really just having the mentally for all five guys to be tougher than the other team.”
McNelly also had a superb game, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds and two steals. Marquis Kraemer (SO/Aurora, Colo.) had 10 points, four rebounds, three steals and turned in yet another sterling defensive effort after being named the KCAC’s Defensive Player of the Week earlier in the day.
The Coyotes shot 40.3 percent from the field (25 of 62), but were 17 of 33 during the second half and two overtime periods. Bethany shot 36.2 percent for the game (29 of 80).
“Credit to the guys, first of all, for never giving up,” Wesleyan coach Anthony Monson said. “They could easily have given up multiple times. It was a heck of a ballgame.
“We just didn’t have energy to start the game and the whole first half. Give Bethany a lot of credit for playing hard, they were all over the place with things and made life tough on us and they just out-worked us.”
The two teams combined for 77 free throws – Wesleyan 37 of 50 and Bethany 21 of 27. The Coyotes also won the rebounding battle 54-43.
Mookie Duncan, the Swedes’ burly 6-foot-8 center, scored 25 along with Larkin and had 14 rebounds. He was 10 of 17 from the field and 5 of 7 from the foul line. Larkin, a senior guard, scored 23 after halftime.
“Mookie Duncan’s a good player and he gave us fits all night long,” Monson said. “They did a good job pounding it in to him. AJ (Range) and Ithello (Cross) did the best they could and at the end of the day it was just enough to get it done.”
Wesleyan goes back on the road again Tuesday for an exhibition game against Newman, an NCAA Division II school, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Wichita.
The Coyotes’ next KCAC game is against No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan at 3 p.m. Saturday at Mabee Arena. The Eagles (16-1) suffered their first loss of the season Monday, falling at home to No. 12 Southwestern 72-68.
Wesleyan 64, Bethany 53
LINDSBORG – The Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes rolled to a big lead after three quarters and held off a late charge from the Bethany Swedes as the Coyotes picked up a 64-53 win on Monday night at Hahn Gym.
The Coyotes, playing their third game in six days, improved to 12-6 overall and 10-2 in the KCAC, while Bethany fell to 9-9 overall and 5-7 in the KCAC.
“This place (Hahn Gym) is so difficult to play in, as we talked about yesterday, especially with only one day to prepare,” Wesleyan head coach Ryan Showman said. “But we stressed that you have to jump out to a good start, you have to get stops and make shots, and kind of get them back on their heels and make them alter that they do. But I don’t think we could have scripted the first three quarters any better.”
Wesleyan led by 30 at the end of the third quarter, 63-33, but struggled in the final ten minutes, going 0 of 9 from the field and scoring only one point as Bethany cut into the lead getting as close as the final score of 64-53.
“It was a combination of things, you know, kind of that perfect storm,” Showman said. “We are up big heading into the fourth and maybe a couple great minutes and we can put this one away. But I thought Bethany came out and played harder and more physical, much like the team that we prepared for, but we didn’t adjust real well to what they were doing.”
A pair of 3-pointers by Sydney Mortensen (SR/Wichita, Kan.) energized the Coyotes as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first minute of the game. Free throws by Virja Lewis (SO/Kansas City, Kan.) pushed the lead out to 10 points at 14-4 with just over six minutes left in the opening quarter.
“Sydney came out and played like a senior should play,” Showman said of Mortensen’s quick start to the game. “She just took control and hit some big 3’s for us and those are big momentum builders for us and momentum killers for them, and I think she just came out and played like a senior needed to in a game like this.”
The Coyotes led by eight at 17-9 with three minutes to go and closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 25-9 lead after the first.
Haleigh Bradford (JR/Schertz, Texas) scored the first points of the second quarter, but saw the Swedes get back to a 12-point difference with just under eight minutes left. A bucket by Janai Mitchell (SR/Salina, Kan.) and free throws by Kayla Kivinski (SR/Port Richey, Fla.) got the Coyotes out to a 20-point margin with 3:15 left in the half.
A bucket by Kivinski put the Coyotes up 45-24 at the half.
Another 3 by Mortensen game the Coyotes a 22-point lead with 6:37 left in the third quarter at 52-30. Wesleyan closed the third on an 11-3 run to lead 63-33 at the end of the third.
Wesleyan was 24 of 62 (38.7 percent) from the field for the game and hit eight 3-pointers led by Mortensen with 15 points while Bradford added 11 and Amanda Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) had 10. Virja Lewis led all rebounders in the game with eight as KWU held a 40-37 advantage on the boards.
The Coyotes get a much needed break thanks to a bye to start the second half of the conference schedule. KWU gets four days off before facing Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mabee Arena to start the second half of the conference season.
KWU beat OKWU 80-64 on November 17 in Bartlesville.
“The second half (of the conference season) is going to be just as tough as the first half,” Showman said. “I thought we learned a lot about ourselves and the conference and now it’s going to come to a point where our preparations are going to get shorter and it’s going to ultimately come down to which team makes more plays and makes the fewest mistakes, that’s what the second half is always about.
“I think we are in a great spot and I think the players are seeing how great of a team we can be heading into these last 12 games,” Showman said.